The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an institution in St. Marys, Ontario dedicated to showcasing the greatest professional baseball players who have come from or have played in Canada. Located half an hour north of London, Ontario, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum offers a mixture of both exhibits and artifacts to celebrate the best in Canadian baseball. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was first founded on November 19th, 1982 by Bruce Prentice. The Canadian Hall of Fame was originally located at Exhibition Place, and then Ontario Place; in 1991 the Hall of Fame became temporarily homeless and a dozen Canadian cities put in bids on which got the right to host the Hall of Fame. The list was winnowed down until it was a contest between the two Ontario cities of Guelph and St. Marys. On August 25th, 1994 it was announced that St. Marys had won the bidding process and would be the new home of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. The transfer and setup took some time, but on June 4th, 1998 the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame opened its doors in its new location at 386 Church Street S in St. Marys, Ontario. The lands occupied by the Hall of Fame comprise 32 acres and were donated by the St. Marys Cement Company; the St. Marys Rotary Club is also a close partner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. The city of St. Marys was chosen in large part because of the history of baseball in Canada. Between the turn of the 20th Century and 1933 the St. Marys Wood Specialty Company was a major manufacturer of baseball bats. In addition, St. Marys Mayor Adam Ford was the author of the 1886 Sporting Life article that detailed the history of the very first recorded game of baseball in North America, which took place not far away at all. The game of rounders is one that has a long history in Britain and areas colonized by the British, dating back to the Tudor monarchs of the late 15th and 16th Centuries. The game is a bat-and-ball game, like many throughout history. One team delivered the leather-cased ball, and the other tried to strike it with a rounded wooden bat. The ball, once hit, is in play, and the delivering team must send it back while the hitter tries to make a complete circuit of four bases; if the delivering team catches the ball in the air, or the delivering team manages to touch the hitter with the ball, the hitter is out. In rounders (as the game is still played in England), the hitting team gets nine outs before the inning is over, and there are two innings. If you’re familiar with the sport of baseball, you can see that there is quite a bit of similarity between the old Tudor game of rounders and the game of baseball as it is familiar today. In the 19th Century, North Americans had a resurgence in interest in the old game of rounders, rebranded now as townball. Townball was a North American variant on the game that differed from its more recognizable descendent in a few key ways. First, there were typically more than nine players on a team. Second, there was no foul territory; if the ball was hit with a bat, it was in play, regardless of where it landed. Third, fielders didn’t necessarily need to touch the hitter with the ball; they could throw the ball at the hitter as they rounded the bases and get them out that way (a process that was then known as “plugging” or “soaking” the runner). It was a more open type of game, played with whomever could be rounded up at the time; the rules were much looser as well, and the game varied strongly from region to region. The New York game, which in the Doubleday invention myth of the game of baseball is the direct antecedent, involved striking a ball with a flat bat and running toward a goal fifty feet away, dodging the up to fifty other boys in the field as they did so. This, of course, sounds more like cricket than anything else, and certainly not like baseball; despite this, Abner Graves’ testimony on this townball variant convinced people for years that baseball came from it, and that it was Abner Doubleday’s tweaking of the rules that led to the modern game. Other places played different versions of the game. Philadelphia played a variant with eleven players on the field where the batter stood between the home base and first base rather than at home base. Hitters had to make it all the way around the bases; they could not stop and stay on any of the bases, as they do in modern baseball. The Philadelphia variant also left out the part where fielders could throw the ball at the hitter as they rounded the bases; this likely cut down on the amount of injuries that happened during the game. In Cincinnati they played with up to 15 players on the field, used a small one-handed bat, and played for four innings; players were local schoolteachers and hospital interns. In Indiana they switched sides once an out had been made, and no official score was kept. The idea of one-out innings was replicated in the New England game, which also widened the distance between bases (to sixty feet), had no foul territory, and included the ability to soak or plug the base-runner. With all of the variants of townball on offer throughout North America, it’s difficult to pin down exactly how that game changed into baseball throughout the 19th Century. The spirit of loose rules, local organizations, and fierce regional variations make it hard to track between them; despite this, there is a strong contender for “first baseball game.” In the early 19th Century townball was a popular pastime everywhere, regardless of borders. Southern Ontario especially has a long and storied tradition of both townball, among early settlers, and organized baseball. The first organized baseball game is said to have occurred on June 4th, 1838 in the town of Beachville, Ontario, a short distance away from the city of London, Ontario. This game took place on a square field in a farm pasture and featured a competition between amateur teams from Beachville and nearby Zorra. This game occurred a year before Abner Doubleday supposedly came up with the game at Cooperstown, New York. When the organized rules of baseball were laid down, however, and semi-professional leagues began to spring up, Canadian teams were a vital part of the mix. The London Tecumsehs, a local team with a long history, was at one point considered in the running to be one of the founding teams of the National League in 1876; since the team refused to cease playing exhibition games against local teams, however, they were dropped from consideration. In fact, despite the amount of interest and players in Ontario and the rest of Canada, Major League Baseball did not move into the Canadian market for a long time. When they finally did, it was first to Montreal, where the Montreal Expos were the culmination of a long history of Quebec baseball. Montreal had been one of the teams in the short-lived International Association league in 1890. The Montreal Royals formed in 1897 and became a world-class minor league team, eventually being purchased by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939 to be their AAA affiliate team. They were a perennial contender and champion, and in 1946 they were led by Jackie Robinson to a Junior World Series title; he would go on to break Major League Baseball’s colour barrier the very next year. The Expos were founded in 1969 and played in Olympic Stadium from 1977 onward. The team is best remembered for their period from 1982 to 1988, when they were one of the best teams in baseball. After the 1994 strike, however, the owners became reticent to spend money on players, merchandise, advertising, or stadium upgrades, and so interest in the team declined sharply. In 2004 they played their final season in Montreal, after having been sold by owner Jeffrey Loria to Major League Baseball; the league opted to move the team to Washington D.C. and rechristen them the Washington Nationals. Canada’s second team was the Toronto Blue Jays, who continue to play in Toronto to this day. The club was founded in 1977 by the Labatt Brewing Company and played their early years at Exhibition Stadium, known with varying degrees of fondness as “The Mistake By The Lake.” The team started weakly but grew to be a perennial contender by the mid-1980s, eventually winning a pair of back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993; post-season success has eluded the team since then, although the 2015 team nearly made it to the World Series. Despite being a young team, relatively speaking, they have a great deal of history, with a number of great players having spent some time in uniform, including David Cone, David Price, Roger Clemens, and Paul Molitor. There are a number of legendary moments befitting even the eldest of clubs, as well: Joe Carter’s clinching home run to win the 1993 World Series, Dave Stieb’s no-hitter in 1990, Dave Winfield getting arrested for accidentally killing a seagull with a baseball, Jose Bautista’s bat flip in 2015, Adam Lind’s neon beard. Since the demise of the Expos, the Blue Jays have truly become “Canada’s Team”, carving out their own niche in the national mythos and ensuring you can find Blue Jays caps from coast to coast. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame celebrates all of this and more, etching into memory all of the people who have contributed to the Canadian take on the sport over the years. Like the overall Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inducts a certain amount of people every year. The first year of induction, 1983, included an eclectic bunch of people, including Edmonton’s own “Mr. Baseball”, John Ducey; early National League star and Woodstock, Ontario native Tip O’Neill; and Canada’s 14th Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, who not only invented the concept of international peacekeeping (and won the Nobel Peace Prize) through his diplomacy work but also played for the Guelph Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League (the same league where the London Majors continue to play in the modern era). Later induction years continue this trend of featuring players, personnel, and honorary members. The Class of 1987 included legendary Cubs pitcher Fergie Jenkins, who was born and grew up in Chatham, Ontario. He was an All-Star in his first year of full-time pitching and won the Cy Young Award in 1971 after a particularly impressive year that saw him rack up 24 wins. He retired with over 3000 strikeouts in 1984 and is one of only three pitchers in Major League Baseball history to record that many strikeouts while simultaneously recording less than 1000 walks (the other two being Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling). Jackie Robinson was inducted in 1991, for his years with the Montreal Royals. Cito Gaston and Paul Beeston both entered in 2002, for managing and owning (respectively) the Blue Jays through their back-to-back World Series wins ten years earlier (Beeston would also be inducted for having also run Major League Baseball’s operations from 1997 to 2002 – worth noting that he is a Western University graduate). Joe Carter would get the nod in 2003, partly because of his strength as a long-term franchise player but mostly, let’s be serious, for that walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. 2005 saw long-time franchise player Dave Stieb finally inducted, and his long-running teammates Ernie Whitt and Tom Henke followed suit in 2009 and 2011, respectively. Tommy Lasorda, the legendary manager of the L.A. Dodgers through the 1980s, made it in in 2006 on the basis of his years pitching for the Montreal Royals. Larry Walker, a B.C. native who played exceptionally for the Montreal Expos and the Colorado Rockies (finishing his career with an impressive .313 batting average) was inducted in 2009. Of final note, 2017 saw two greats with contemporary stories of interest inducted. Roy “Doc” Halladay was inducted on his strengths as one of the game’s best pitchers while he hurled for the Blue Jays; the team has always considered him a Jay despite his finishing his career in Philadelphia, and his tragic death in 2017 led to a national outpouring of grief. That year also saw Expos star Vladimir Guerrero inducted for being one of the most dominating hitters to ever grace a Canadian team (and also because he’s a stellar humanitarian and an all-around great guy); his son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., made a much-hyped Major League debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019 and looks to be following in his famous father’s footsteps. Baseball is a sport, but it’s equal parts a history; baseball fans are such that every interaction and every statistic, no matter how obscure, is entered into the records. If you’re one of those, or if you’re merely curious about the history of the so-called “American National Pastime” in Canada, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will have all of the information you would ever need.